With their climate case against Keystone XL in shambles, Keystone XL opponents desperately keep changing their message, hoping something will stick. That was on full display today when billionaire anti-Keystone XL activist Tom Steyer, who is best known for his political stunts, was called out again by numerous news outlets after he released a report (that he funded, of course) written by former a Navy SEAL, which argues that Keystone XL could be subject to a terrorist attack.
“Painting the pipeline as a terrorist threat is the latest in a slew of messaging tactics enlisted by Steyer, who is determined to bring down the pipeline, which he says will devastate the environment and contribute to climate change in the U.S. Steyer has launched a full-throated campaign to put climate change on the map in midterm elections and help lawmakers that oppose the pipeline in their reelection bids. But while the message on climate change doesn’t make it through the noise surrounding the pipeline, the new report just might.”
Whether this latest stunt fares any better than his previous efforts remains to be seen. As the National Journal said, “The claim opens up a new front in the public-relations arms race over the pipeline—and it’s heavy on the hype.” It goes on to explain what the report leaves out:
“Here’s what it doesn’t say: While terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure may be on the rise around the world, terrorist strikes on U.S. soil have declined dramatically in recent decades. Attacks fell from 468 in 1970 to just 13 in 2012, the latest year that data was available through the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
During this time, the most likely targets of a terrorist attack in the U.S. were businesses, followed by private citizens and property. Attacks tended to take place in urban areas, and non-fatal events vastly outnumbered deadly strikes.”
Of course, security is the number one priority and any possible threat should be identified and evaluated. But, as always, context is important here. As the National Journal points out, strikes on energy infrastructure in the United States have declined significantly. In countries where these types of attacks are on the rise, the pipelines are often above ground and often involve people wanting to steal the oil inside. That kind of activity is not a credible threat in the United States. Further, the pipeline will be underground, operating under the utmost security regulations and risk assessment requirements.
As TransCanada spokesperson Shawn Howard explained,
“The comparison to above-ground pipelines in Iraq is misleading and is comparing apples to oranges. Pipelines in North America — and the agencies charged to protect the public — are different than those in Iraq or other war zones.”
Howard also pointed out that there are 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the United States, yet Steyer didn’t asses threats associated with of any of those.
The bottom line is that Steyer’s latest stunt only shows how desperate he has become, as the national security benefits of Keystone XL are abundantly clear. That’s why former Obama national security advisor, General Jim Jones said,
“The international bullies who wish to use energy scarcity as a weapon against us all are watching intently. If we want to make Mr. Putin’s day and strengthen his hand, we should reject the Keystone. If we want to gain an important measure of national energy security, jobs, tax revenue and prosperity to advance our work on the spectrum of energy solutions that don’t rely on carbon, it should be approved.”
As former Secretary of State George P. Shultz said about the oil that would come from Keystone XL: “That’s oil that doesn’t go through the straits of Hormuz.” When former Obama national security advisor Thomas E. Donilon was asked if he would advise approval of Keystone XL on national security grounds, he answered: “I probably would.”
“Increasing supply from Canada allows the United States to reduce its dependence on more distant supplies of oil by tanker, often from regions that are less stable and more susceptible to disruption. Pipeline and rail links between the United States and Canada constitute a “hardwired” link of Canadian oil to the US market— very different from waterborne shipments that can be diverted, even while en route.”
A poll released last year found that 81 percent of Americans agree that Keystone XL would strengthen our energy security and 77 percent say it will strengthen our national security.
It’s not surprising that Steyer has “had to get more creative” with his anti-Keystone XL stunts – in the face of overwhelming facts and public support for Keystone XL, all he has left is fiction.